20 Strategies to Consider Before Getting Started
1. If possible, you need to plan for your divorce and/or custody case at least 6 months before taking action. If you go to see a lawyer and he or she thinks you should get the process started immediately, be aware that they may be more interested in your retainer fee than your well being. Of course, certain situations require immediate action, but the planning part, will enable you to be in a better financial position as well as establishing a better case to prove your case.
2. Do not trust your spouse with any information about the marital finances. Divorce and custody disputes can get quite ugly, especially when a significant amount of marital property and parental rights are at stake, so be sure to do your own homework. This includes not even trusting account statements that are provided. You need to check with the banking institutions for verification.
3. Hire the best lawyer you can afford. Your lawyer is the captain of your legal team. The more knowledge and experience you can have on your side the better. If you live in a small town, you may only have one or two really good family law attorneys, so be sure to hire an attorney before your spouse. Oftentimes one spouse will get stuck with a less experienced lawyer not by choice.
4. Accumulate as much cash reserve as possible before taking action. Do not get crazy with this. A comfortable figure is probably $5000 for a lawyer and additional funds for your living expenses.
5. Do your best to keep your intention to divorce and/or gain custody a secret. You would be surprised how many times a spouse will confide in a friend or relative that will clue the other spouse about what is going to happen. Friends or relatives feel as though they have to save your marriage, almost as if you have confided in them about you intentions was a last cry for help.
6. You spouse’s tax returns are probably the most valuable piece of financial information you will need, especially if he or she is the major bread winner of the relationship. Make sure you have a copy of this document and preferably the last three years if possible, prior to taking action.
7. Even if you think your case will eventually be uncontested, do not under estimate your spouse’s potential to make things difficult. What starts out amicable may easily end in the courtroom, so make sure you are prepared with as much evidence as possible.
8. Initiating the filing procedure may seem like a bad thing, but as far as legal strategy it can be the best decision you will ever make. With proper reasoning, the judge will accept even more that things were not right and that you deserve to get out of the marriage and what you are asking for. This is especially important when it comes to wanting custody of the children. If you file for custody first, the court may think you want it more.
9. Never try to manipulate the court. Judges have seen it all and what may seem like the best laid out plan, will almost always blow up in your face. Judges look for reasons to rule one-way or the other. An attempt to manipulate the court will make the custody decision very easy for the judge.
10. Never attempt blackmail or bribery.
11. The more you and your spouse save on legal fees the more you will be awarded when the divorce is finalized. If you have $50,000 in marital assets and you spend $20,000 on legal fees, you only have $30,000 to divide.
12. If you are looking to receive alimony, the longer period of time being unemployed while being married the better the chance. Alimony is not automatic and if it is part of the settlement, most of the time it is on a temporary basis.
13. Be sure to remember that child support is primarily determined by four factors. Your income, your spouse’s income, how many children, and the amount of visitation (overnights).
14. When establishing a case against your spouse, be sure to reflect on your own weaknesses as well. Claiming your spouse is an alcoholic, when you drink the same amount will due you absolutely no good.
15. If you are going to do your own investigative work, be sure you know what is legal and not and what is admissible in court. The best taped telephone conversation of your spouse with his or her lover may do you more harm than good. If you do come up with good evidence, consult your lawyer before using the ammunition.
16. Never say anything to anyone about your case that you would not want to come up in the courtroom (except for your lawyer). For example…"I would not want custody if only she would apologize". This type of statement could be very damaging in the courtroom.
17. Any case plans should be kept in a very secure environment. You may not even know the other side has your plans until it is too late.
18. When negotiating, ask for a little more, that way if you must settle, it will be closer to want you actually want.
19. Set goals for yourself and your case. Keep them in the forefront of all decision-making, because when negotiations begin, it is very easy to get side tracked or convinced to change your direction.
20. Once you begin your case, you must be firm and committed to you goals. Emotions, finances, and time will all become a major factor, but do your best to take charge and finish with your best effort.